Having faced a decade’s long erosion in membership, dues revenue and political clout, the labor movement is facing another tough year in 2017. The latest threat comes from the United States Congress, where in February, Reps. Steve King, R-Iowa, and Joe Wilson, R-S.C., introduced H.R. 785, the “National Right-to-Work Act.” The bill would amend the National Labor Relations Act and the Railway Labor Act by removing statutory language that permits so-called union security clauses in labor agreements.
A union security clause requires an employee to pay union dues as a condition of work. Unions claim this mandate is needed otherwise employees would not pay dues and instead would benefit from the protections of the labor contract but not pay for the service provided by the union. Those opposed claim the clause forces employees to pay dues or be fired, that the law should be neutral on the subject, and that free-market forces around employee choice and quality of services should be allowed to play out. Similar bills have not passed before; but with both the Senate and House controlled by Republicans and President Donald Trump in favor of right-to-work, the measure seems to have momentum.
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